Florida’s then-Governor George Franklin Drew signed into law Florida’s convict leasing system in 1877, whereby prisoners were leased out to private companies at wages far below market-rate.
Convict leasing was a policy that contributed to the financial success of many businesses in Florida. In this leasing arrangement, those who were incarcerated were essentially under the authority of private companies rather than the judicial or correctional system. These prisoners provided cheap labor to private companies and endured inhumane treatment with little to no regard for their constitutional rights. Many who were trapped in this system were Black Floridians. Although convict leasing is no longer practiced, there remain entities — both private and governmental — that financially benefit from the virtually free labor of incarcerated individuals. For example, there are several private prisons in the state of Florida whose profit margins are sustained only by sending people to prison. Incarcerated Floridians are disproportionally Black due to unequal application and enforcement of the law in Black communities.